There has been a 77 per cent increase in public complaints against police officers received by the island’s watchdog state agency last year over 2018.
The annual Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Report for 2019 – a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY – also reveals that allegations of aggression, threats and verbal abuse and the failure to take action on reports made to police, continue to be the main points of concern for the general public.
In fact, the document, which has already been laid in Parliament, shows that of the overall 23 complaints received by the authority last year, nine were for unprofessional conduct, an increase of three over 2018; and six for failure to take action – which remained the same from the previous year.
The 32-page report found that those two categories accounted for 65 per cent of the complaints lodged with the 19-year-old body which was established through an act of Parliament under the 2001 Police Complaints Authority Act.
A further breakdown of the categories reveals that two complaints were made against law enforcement officers for failing to produce police identification documents or search warrants, compared to none the previous year; and two each for assault or bodily harm and abuse of power.
No such allegations were lodged with the PCA during the corresponding period in either of the latter two categories.
As with 2018, one person engaged the authority last year claiming the police stole their property.
“The authority is pleased to report that as was the case in previous years, the complaints do not include allegations of bribery, drug-related activity, corruption or other serious matters of that nature,” chairman Justice Elneth Kentish wrote in the report.
But while complaints to the PCA are showing a jump, the authority has expressed concern that the number of people filing statements of dissatisfaction with that body, still pale in comparison to the rate of allegations being made directly to the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
The report attributes the high incidence of people by-passing the agency in favour of dealing directly with the force to a difficulty in accessing the authority’s services because of its location. The PCA’s offices are in the Jones Building, Webster’s Business Park, Wildey, St Michael.
“The consistent low number of complaints made to this office when compared to the number made directly to the police continues to be of concern to the authority. The authority received from the Commissioner of Police, notice of 59 complaints made to the Office of Professional Responsibility, Royal Barbados Police Force for the corresponding period,” the agency reported.
According to the document for the period January to December 2019, complaints were made against 18 police officers including one station sergeant, six sergeants and nine constables. There were also accusations against unnamed personnel from six police stations and three departments.
With respect to the actions taken by the authority, it first determined which complaints should be forwarded to the Commissioner of Police for investigation or which required an interview with the complainant to obtain further information.
Thirteen persons were invited to interviews by the PCA last year and 11 attended and were actually interviewed, said the report.
The report noted that of the total complaints filed during the year under review, 13 were referred to the Commissioner of Police to be investigated and three were closed after the review process by the authority. One of those was withdrawn by the complainant.
The document went on to disclose that one accusation was referred to the police station concerned for further assistance and another complainant was advised to get a lawyer as their matter was civil in nature.
The authority said it conducted direct enquiry into two other complaints after the initial review and continues to monitor one claim on behalf of the accuser.
“Reports of those two complaints by the authority have been completed and copies sent to the complainant and the Commissioner of Police,” the PCA annual report stated.
“In accordance with Section 25 of the Police Complaints Authority Act, two complaints were adjourned pending the completion of a court case arising out of the same circumstances as the complaint,” it added.
“During the year 2019, one completed investigation report was received from the Office of the Commissioner of Police in respect of complaints referred for investigation during the review period. In respect of this complaint, the complainant has requested a review by the authority of the findings of the investigation,” the PCA announced.
The authority also reported that – as provided for in the Act – it did not receive any complaints where the conduct of a police officer resulted in the death of, or serious injury to, another person.